AL ASAD, Iraq -- Joy and hope inundated the streets of this former Iraqi air base as dozens gathered March 25 and 27 to celebrate Good Friday and Easter.
The services offered on Good Friday were Stations of the Cross, Liturgy of the Passion and Way of the Cross, which are devotions used to meditate on different scenes from the Passion and death of Christ.
On Sunday, the Easter “Son rise” Celebration featured music and hymns. In a joint mission different than what they’re used to, the Marines, soldiers, sailors and civilians in attendance turned the Al Asad soccer stadium into a concert hall while observing the end of the Holy Week.
According to Lt. Cmdr. Terry W. Eddinger, Marine Aircraft Group 26 (Reinforced) command chaplain, seven service members from the different units here were baptized on Easter. “It’s Resurrection Sunday and baptism is a symbol of what Jesus did,” he said. “How many other opportunities does a new Christian have to be baptized this close to the Holy Land on the most Christian day?”
A gospel concert took place at the base theater as an end to the celebrations. Chief Warrant Officer Charles D. Willis, Marine Wing Communications Squadron 28 network planner, acted as minister of music and led those in attendance to worship Jesus singing and shouting.
“The choir did a great job and they appealed to a wide range of people,” said Chief Warrant Officer Rawley H. Colemon, MAG-26 (Rein) personnel officer. “This is the first time a concert like this has ever happened in Al Asad and this is only the beginning. The most important message of it is that it offered the invitation to worship God. The purpose of singing gospel music is to uplift, encourage and praise God in honor and in glory.”
The origins of Easter date back to the beginnings of Christianity, and it’s probably the oldest Christian observance after the Sabath.
Thousands of miles away from home and their loved ones, the service members and civilians here keep the faith and continue to work together for a brighter Iraq.
“It’s ironic that we’re celebrating a Christian holiday in a Muslim country,” said Eddinger. “Just a few years ago this would have not been possible.”